I tend to make impulse buys at the Farmer’s Market, and I don’t always consider whether I’ll be able to use things quickly enough. With fresh herbs, that means I’ve had to learn how to store them for a number of days until I can get around to the meal they’re needed for.
Our CSA has also surprised us with fresh herbs this summer, from cilantro to basil to parsley, and although I love having them around, it may take me more than a week to use the little bunch.
I read Jessica’s “How to Use Your CSA Share” post from Life as MOM in last month’s Eat Well, Spend Less series, and I was surprised that she had been told to keep her fresh basil in a cup of water at room temperature. She found that it wilted too quickly, and her (excellent) solution to the problem was always to make pesto right away.
I love pesto, too, and it freezes great, but there are other dishes, like the einkorn pasta recipe I posted this week and our favorite summertime meal, sausage zucchini bake, that also call for fresh basil.
I love using fresh parsley in my homemade chicken stock, but I don’t always time it perfectly to make on CSA or Farmer’s Market day.
And the cilantro has been fun to have for homemade fresh salsa or even canned salsa, as well as sprinkling on guacamole and including in our family’s new standby black bean spread from Real Food…Real Easy! – but all those things can’t always be made in a few days.
I’ve found that fresh herbs stay quite hearty and crisp simply in a plastic bag for a few days in the crisper, but anything longer than that needs some intervention.
I’ve heard of a number of different ways to store fresh herbs in the refrigerator, but this is by far the simplest. It only takes 60 seconds and can last 2-3 weeks, depending on the herb.
I had to store the basil and parsley from this week’s CSA share because we’re heading out camping (yes, with a just barely one-year-old) and can’t do fancy meals this week… (Have you seen the Family Camping Handbook? It will teach you how to camp with kids AND real food and keep your sanity.)
How to Store Fresh Herbs EASY
1. You can choose to rinse the herbs or not, depending on if they’re organic, grown indoors, and if you’re going to want to rinse them before you use them or just pluck a few leaves out.
2. Put a half centimeter to a centimeter of water in the bottom of a dish that will fit your herbs. I usually use a 1-cup Pyrex glass dish or a little plastic one; in this photo I had 2 bunches of herbs and used a 4-cup box:
3. Place your fresh herbs for storage in the water, stems down:
4. Put the lid on. This is key to storing fresh herbs the easy way – some would say to keep them in a cup of water, but that is just asking to be knocked over in a busy refrigerator. Just choose the right sized dish and lid it:
5. Store the fresh herbs in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks or until they get wilty, brown, or don’t smell right anymore. For best results, change the water every few days or when you think of it.
That’s all there is to it! A truly simple way to store fresh herbs and avoid finding that plastic bag of brown mush in the bottom of your crisper drawer a month later (because you forgot what you had in there).
It wouldn’t hurt to make a note on your meal plan about using the herbs in a timely fashion.
If you really don’t think you’ll be able to use fresh herbs quickly enough, you can also freeze them:
How to Freeze Fresh Herbs
- Wash and cut the herbs.
- Fill ice cube trays most of the way with the herbs; measuring a Tbs. in each “cube” is a great idea. (1 Tbs. fresh herbs = 1 tsp. dried herbs in a recipe!)
- Cover the herbs with water if you’re going to use them in soups or sauces, or oil if you’re going to make pesto or perhaps stir fry with them.
- Pop the cubes out into a plastic zippered bag for storage. I’m sure most places would say 3-6 months, but I can tell you I’ve used frozen basil after a year and more, and it still imparts flavor, which is mostly the point!
- For basil, if you don’t wash the leaves, you can just freeze them in a bag, whole. They’ll break apart after freezing and be simple to add to a recipe.
What’s your favorite way to use fresh herbs?
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